Sometimes, inspiration is found in odd places. This dish was adapted from a recipe by Martha Rose Shulman published in the New York Times with a few added tweaks of my own. However, it was my son’s baby food that actually inspired this meal. I make him a lot of food, but I sometimes need a quick food on the go and so I have a particular brand of purees I love, especially their world baby line, with wonderful and exotic food combinations. Their Moroccan puree is lentils with roasted butternut squash and apricots. It sounded so yummy to me that I began to devise a grown up version of the dish.
Ginger is an absolute game changer for lentils, heightening the sweetness of the legume. The fiery spice of ginger is buffered perfectly by the starchy, dense lentils and mellowed out to a low flame in the background. I only had ground ginger (I know, I know, but life is busy with an infant), but I intend to try it with fresh ginger as well, so I’ve put down the amount I’ll be using.
I served this alongside a modified, vegetarian version of Tyler Florence’s Apricot Couscous
The two recipes together make a healthy, filling weeknight meal, particularly when you’re in the mood for lighter, meatless fare.
Lentils & Roasted Squash
Serves 8 - 10
1 lb lentils, rinsed & picked through
20 ounces peeled, cubed butternut squash
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon ground ginger, or 1” piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
1 half an onion, coarsely chopped
1 shallot, chopped
Salt, generously, to taste
Pepper, to taste
(for garnish): 1 Tablespoon minced cilantro & 1 Tablespoon minced Italian Parsley
1. In a large pan over medium heat combine 1/2 gallon of water with all ingredients except for the vinegar, squash & olive oil.
2. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 60 minutes, or until lentils are almost thoroughly soft (some should still be slightly crunchy).
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place a sieve over a bowl and strain the lentils through. Retain the broth.
4. Mix broth with vinegar, olive oil and a touch more salt and pepper. Toss squash into broth/vinegar mixture and coat thoroughly.
5. Bake until cooked through, 50 - 60 minutes, depending on cube size.
6. Reintroduce broth to lentils in the pan, add squash and cook for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, or until lentils have reached desired consistency.
Serve garnished with cilantro and parsley and alongside apricot couscous.